Sandie Konopelski (left) and I at Easter services at Faith Family Church.
Dear Members and Friends,
Our Illinois group has lost a friend, member, bunny parent and colleague, and our hearts are heavy with sadness.

I was driving to the shelter yesterday morning to meet new volunteers when the radio reported that a pedestrian had been struck and killed by a MetroLink train in Swansea.  How had the person come to be on the tracks at 8:20 a.m., I wondered.

Then, Bobbie Shewmaker called to tell me that Joy Gioia, our chapter manager, had learned that the pedestrian was Sandie Konopelski and she had been responding to a call about an opossum on the tracks.  How like her, I thought.  Sandie was known to drive anywhere, day or night, to aid a wild animal who needed help.  The Shiloh property that she shared with husband, Marc, was replete with all manner of critters she was nursing so they could be set free again - cottontails, racoons, skunks, opossums, sugar gliders, birds of all kinds.

Sandie's knowledge of wildlife - how to rescue them, how to treat their injuries - was vast, acquired during a lifetime of rescuing for Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of Missouri and Illinois and, before that,Treehouse Wildlife Center in Dow.  When we received calls about injured wild rabbits - and we receive calls often from people who have unwittingly mowed over cottontail nests in their yards - we could call Sandie and she would always know exactly what to do, and accept the injured and the orphaned.  During the spring and summer months, she nursed and released hundreds of cottontails and baby animals of all sorts.

You may have met Sandie at an Illinois meeting.  She had rescued two domestic rabbits, BunnyButt and Checkers and often brought BunnyButt to our meetings.  BunnyButt wasn't fond of humans; Sandie brought him because, in an unfamiliar setting where he needed reassurance, BunnyButt would allow her to hold him and love on him.

On Easter morning, I joined Sandie at her church, Faith Family, to provide bunnies and chicks for photos with the congregants.  Sandie provided the chicks; I provided the bunnies.  Sandie brought the chicks in a plastic tub rigged with a heat lamp and kept alternating the chicks in the basket for the photos so they wouldn't be stressed.  During a break, she went into a back room to feed formula to a litter of orphaned, newborn opossums that came with her because they needed feeding every four hours.

On a night in January 2014, Sandie joined Bev Smith and me on a rescue of 29 domestic bunnies from outdoor hutches at a vacant house in Caseyville.  It was bitter cold, dark, and ice crackled under our feet. The police had asked us to remove the bunnies.  It wasn't Sandie's problem but she offered to help, and we were grateful.  We had never experienced a situation like this, but Sandie knew exactly what to do.  A tree had fallen over the hutches and Sandie pried off boards to release and remove the trapped bunnies.  It was nasty business - so many dead infants, frozen, among the survivors.  But seven infants and and three youngsters were among the living.

Bev and I drove the bunnies to our shelter in Fenton; Sandie took home four chickens that were severely dehydrated and malnourished and spent her own money, hundreds of dollars, on the special food and medicine they needed to thrive.

Sandie was a lady of greatness.  We will miss her.

Pat Daly

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